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Challenges await Syrian opposition ahead of Geneva talks

The umbrella group announced the Geneva talks delegation [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 February, 2017

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Challenges face Syria’s opposition ahead of upcoming Geneva talks, with attempts by the regime to impose questionable groups into the negotiations process.
Syria’s main opposition said it defied regime attempts to divide and weaken the group and established itself as the only legitimate opposition to Bashar al-Assad ahead of upcoming Geneva talks.

The High Negotiations Committee [HNC], the main umbrella group for the opposition force in the conflicted state maintained there is “no role for Bashar al-Assad and his clique” in Syria’s future, referring to the regime’s internal and external allies.

The body emboldened its vision to “preserve the unity of the Syrian opposition and to work toward achieving a genuine political transition based on the 2012 Geneva statement and relevant UN resolution,” it said, concluding a meeting in Riyadh.

“Initiating negotiations requires seriousness and concrete measures to build trust,” it said in a statement, while demanding the regime “substantially” improve the situation on the ground to begin paving the way to peace.

Meanwhile it called on the regime to halt its ceasefire violations across Syria, including Aleppo and Homs, while accusing the government of taking advantage of time in between talks to carry out air raids on rebel groups.

On Sunday, the High Negotiations Committee [HNC] said it had chosen its 20-member delegation for the talks and renewed calls for “the departure of all foreign forces, militias and mercenary groups” while confirming their position against terrorism “in all its forms.”

The delegation includes representatives from several rebel groups, including Faylaq al-Sham, an Islamist faction active around Damascus, and Liwa Sultan Murad, a battalion close to Turkey.

Moscow and Ankara brokered a shaky nationwide ceasefire in December between the Syrian government and rebel groups.

Kazakhstan's foreign ministry announced on Saturday that Syrian government officials and rebels were being invited to a second round of peace talks in Astana.

A Syrian rebel source, however, denied that opposition groups received an invitation to attend peace talks being held next week.

"If we do receive an invitation we will study it at that time," the source told The New Arab on Saturday. Another source from the opposition said that they will participate upon receipt of an official invite. 

The next round of Astana talks will discuss observance of the ceasefire and stabilisation measures for specific areas and other "practical steps" ahead of the talks in Geneva, Kazakhstan said.

The Geneva talks are aimed at ending the nearly six-year war in Syria.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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